Academic Visioning workgroup suggests programs

Cassie Buchman, News Editor


Members of Workgroup no. 8, Academic Visioning I, suggested “dream” programs that could be brought to the university at their meeting Monday.

Workgroup chair Jeff Stowell, a psychology professor, said they want to look at programs that will bring students to the university.

“They may not be existing programs, they may be new programs, but (we want to) be able to generate ideas without the constraints of ‘How do we make it happen,” Stowell said.

These constraints include whether or not there is a population of students interested in the new program, whether the students would come from other majors or if they would be completely new students, and the administrative structure or a new program.

“If there was a new college, we would need a department chair, or college dean,” Stowell said. “That costs money but it’s an investment we’re starting to buy into in terms of how to grow Eastern and make it great.”

Right now, the groups are considering which programs are more feasible than others.

Biological sciences professor Britto Nathan suggested the creation of a College of Health Sciences and Health Services, though that name could be changed.

The idea behind this college, Nathan said, would be to create a common umbrella to gather the programs together that are all over campus.

“Anywhere you look at, the data shows, it’s very clear, there is a growing trend in health career options,” Nathan said. “The demand is just unbelievable.”

He said by the year 2020, 5.6 million healthcare workers will be needed, and 82 percent will require higher education.

“Our Eastern data supports that we are seeing a growth in the health and pre-health majors,” Nathan said.

Kimberly Kuspa, a communication studies major, talked about students getting credit out of what they put into extracurricular activities.

Kuspa said student involvement is down, because some students think it is not worth doing an activity if it will not help with their major.

“Why would I do band if it has nothing to do with my major?” she said. “But if you can prove your skills at band, I’m sure that could relate to any major leadership-wise.”

Kuspa, for example, is the vice president of her sorority and has a job on campus.

Kelly Miller, interim admissions director, said there are already universities who have leadership academies and or leadership as a minor.

“Because we have a College Student Affairs graduate program there might be some tie-in there,” Miller suggested. “I think if it’s going to show up as a credit, it’s gotta have a home somewhere.

Nathan said this is a fantastic idea as there are many job markets looking for leadership skills and credits.

One of the terms being thrown around is “competency-based education,” Stowell said.

“This is how people demonstrate that they learned new skills, which are not necessarily contingent upon having a course,” he said. “Either they learn on the job or have other educational experiences and bring what they know and we bridge educational gaps and give them a stamp of approval that says they are competent.”

He said this would take what students are already doing and find a way to tie it into their current curriculum to make it part of the transcript.

Stowell said the group will gain feedback from the campus. He added that a growth in the healthcare field means it is an investment that is pretty much guaranteed to pay off.

However, Stowell said when there is change on campus there are always some who are more resistant to it than others.

“Whenever there is change on campus, the challenge is we’re going to ask faculty or even whole departments to think differently about where they fit in the university,” Stowell said. “Change is harder for some than others.”

Despite this, Stowell said the university cannot keep doing what it has been doing for the last 120 years.

“The landscape, our country has changed, technology has changed,” Stowell said. “We need see where Eastern needs to go in the future, not where we’ve been.”

Stowell said this did not necessarily mean adding new courses or new faculty; it is restructuring what the university is already doing to help students.

“That’s the most realistic type of development for new programs,” Stowell said. “Let’s take what you’re already doing…and put it together in a way that better prepares students from what they’re doing.”

He added that he does not see this as a zero sum game where growth in area will have to take away from another area.


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].